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D-Link Boxee Box - Media Playback, Apps & Verdict

Gordon Kelly

By Gordon Kelly

Reviewed:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR
D-Link Boxee Box

Summary

Our Score:

8

So as a user experience the Boxee Box fits squarely between the Apple TV and WD TV Live Hub: not quite as slick as the former, more intuitive than the latter. The good news is from this point onwards it starts to excel.

Western Digital's WD TV range used to be the king of codec support, but the Boxee Box raises this to a whole new level (full spec list on page 3). Quite simply we couldn't find a single file type to make it stumble and it handles 1080p content without batting an eyelid. Where possible Boxee will also automatically tag multimedia content (attained legally or otherwise) giving movie descriptions and TV episode summaries. Combine this with the extensive network support (compatible protocols include IPV4, ARP, TCP, UDP, ICMP, DHCP, DNS, DDNS and Samba clients, HTTP server, RTP/RTMP, VPN: PPTP and DLNA 1.5) and it is the best media streamer to date. Even better is this is only one element of the Boxee Box's abilities.

The other is its extensive online functionality. This has drawn contrasting opinions in the US and the UK, as the US service lacks big hitters like Hulu, Fancast, Amazon and more, but in the UK we are well served with a multitude of apps including: BBC iPlayer, Last.fm, Comedy Central, College Humor, The Onion, Fail Blog, Boing Boing, Wired, YouTube and Flickr. Interestingly since Boxee is an open platform so any third party can develop apps meaning you'll also find (locked by default) adult content.

Apple's strictly controlled app store, this most definitely isn't. Of course the irony is Apple prides itself on the extensive app support for iOS yet it has so far blocked app development for Apple TV. Meanwhile the Boxee Box is overflowing with them and numbers (currently over 130 in the UK) are growing all the time. A further nice touch is a 'Friends' feed which groups all multimedia content shared by your friends via Facebook, Twitter and Google Buzz into a single stream. This makes for pleasant browsing at the end of a busy day.

We are also impressed by the way Boxee is continually upgrading its platform. We upgraded to the latest firmware (Build 1.0.1.16319) – something which happens automatically or can be triggered manually via Settings>System>Update and 'Check for New Version of Boxee' – and the improvements are extensive. If Boxee can keep this up it really does have the potential to leave its competition eating dust.

So if you're in the market for a media streamer you should rush out and buy the Boxee Box? Yes, but there are a couple of caveats. Firstly it is overpriced. A $199 RRP (£127) has been directly converted to £199 in the UK. This is crazy for a machine with no internal storage and compares badly with the WD TV Live Hub which integrates a whopping 1TB HDD yet costs just £159. Apple TV is also only £99 (and $99 in the US) though is obviously more limited in just about every way.

In addition Boxee has integrated a web browser which is both slow and buggy and the mouse pointer has to be controlled by the remote D-pad, a disappointment given the Qwerty equipped remote makes browsing a potentially attractive opinion. Let's hope more firmware fixes are on the way.

Despite this, if you can stomach the asking price, the Boxee Box sets a new standard for media players – and just in time for Christmas…

Verdict

It may be overpriced, but the Boxee Box has unparalleled codec support, a slick UI and looks fantastic sitting under your TV. The fact Boxee has committed to regular firmware updates also means it should keep improving while third party app support is second to none. iTunes fans may prefer the Apple TV and those on a budget may be better off with the WD TV Live Hub, but we'd find the extra cash and spend it on the Boxee Box.

Premfab

November 27, 2010, 1:18 pm

Looks interesting. Deserves to succeed for being different.





My stumbling block for a player of this sort is "will it play a blu-ray iso over the network"?





I think the WD and Asus can do this but without menu support.





If this doesn't, is there any device out there that can support this?

snaxo

November 27, 2010, 3:20 pm

Does indeed look interesting, though the shape may be an irritant for some (for example, all my gear is hidden in a cupboard- this might not 'fit' within the shelves).





Now question for TR. I have a Popcorn Hour C-200 which is excellent.





Why have you never reviewed this machine? I'd like to see how it compares.


The fact that you can load 3rd party enhancement to the C-200 makes it very versatile.

LinguisticPedant

November 27, 2010, 4:37 pm

Nice YOUPORN icon on the most popular apps page. I see Boxee Box is catering for all markets.

Mike B

November 27, 2010, 5:50 pm

Given a lot of TV's and Blu-ray players can perform all this box has to offer it seems very overpriced. A PS3 or Xbox may be a better choice rather than a proliferation of boxes under your TV.

Gregor

November 27, 2010, 8:06 pm

@Prem


AFAIK the Dune and Egreat players can - see http://www.iboum.com/net-media...

Pbryanw

November 27, 2010, 8:45 pm

This review seems in contrast to some of the negative reviews I've read on Engadget, Gizmodo and other tech sites. I wonder if this was because of the new firmware used? If so, at least it shows that D-link & Boxee are comitted to this project, and hopefully there'll be a constant flow of updates in the future.





Apart from the price, the only thing putting me off is its unusual shape. Which would make fitting it on my TV stand difficult. And a quick price drop (to around £100-150) would be welcome.

ChaosDefinesOrder

November 27, 2010, 10:28 pm

@Mike B: The PS3 certainly cannot play as many file formats as the Boxee Box can, this I know from personal experience. Have a number of regular .avi files encoded with MP3 audio and H.264 video that won't play on the PS3. Similarly, try getting .mkv playing on a PS3...

Wildkard

November 28, 2010, 1:23 am

PS3s and 360s offer hardly anything in the way of media playback, the 360 especially so.





If this was a "normal" shape and 50 quid cheaper, I'd buy one right now. As it is I think I'll pass.

Gordon394

November 28, 2010, 5:01 am

@Prem - I didn't try it, but D-Link tells me it is supported.


@snaxo - the C-200 is an excellent machine. I do prefer the Boxee, but you don't need to upgrade when you already have that.


@Mike B - understand your logic, but - as others have pointed out - consoles have extremely limited codec support so they aren't a real substitute.


@Pbryanw - yes, you'll notice UK and US reviews are very different. That is a) because the later release date in Europe saw us test it with the latest firmware and b) the UK actually has good content licensing deals whereas the US content is lacking Hulu, Amazon. Netcast, etc.





@Wildkard - Personally I love the shape, but yes £150 would have been better.

Mike B

November 28, 2010, 2:39 pm

Multiple codec support is in fact the real problem with the widespread adoption of media streaming boxes. The average consumer does not want to have to convert their content into an array of different formats just to be able to stream them to a TV. They want an Apple like easy and instant experience which is not really provided by any of the current offerings. I don't believe the average consumer is ripping all their DVDs and Blue-rays to store on a NAS for latter streaming to a TV. Probably just as well as the energy consumed in performing this task is hardly very green!





It makes more sense to have all media (apart from personal media such as holiday snaps and videos) stored on central servers and streamed over the net to individuals as and when needed. The problem is the cost has to right for this to stop individuals ripping their own content. The company that can offer this at the right price and with a slick and easy interface will be the winner, making the issue of multiple codec support irrellivent.

Gordon394

November 28, 2010, 6:29 pm

@Mike B - this is essentially when the Boxee Box does, but you'd want it at £99 to really shock the market.

jingyeow

November 29, 2010, 3:49 am

The design reminds me of the Met Uni building in Islington





http://upload.wikimedia.org/wi...

Timbo

November 29, 2010, 12:30 pm

As soon as you can get something like this for £99 that supports all the major "normal" TV channels (iPlayer, SeeSaw, 4OD, etc) plus premium offerings (LoveFilm etc) then I reckon these under the TV boxes will take off.

DanielNB

November 29, 2010, 2:55 pm

"Per say"? Lordy...

pimlicosound

November 29, 2010, 4:17 pm

The UK version might have "more online content" than the US version, but it's still all a bit rubbish, isn't it? Where are the HD streaming films and TV shows? Most US media streamers get Netflix, Hulu and Amazon streaming in HD. What do we get? Apparently nothing on the Boxee Box and very limited pay-per-view HD content on a small number of other devices.





I'll get a media streamer when the content providers get their acts together and provide a proper HD service like Netflix and Hulu.

ffrankmccaffery

November 29, 2010, 4:22 pm

The apps concept could really set this device apart from it's rivals much as happened with Apple and it's iPhone. One of the two sites I visit regularly (Justin.tv) already has an app for this and the other (Veetle) is in the works.

OldTimer

November 29, 2010, 4:52 pm

@DanielNB, demonstrates the need for bringing Latin back into our schools!

ChaosDefinesOrder

November 29, 2010, 5:22 pm

@pimlicosound, the content providers also need to stop throwing their toys out of the pram and blocking great ideas (in theory) like Google TV, and Hulu needs to realise that the UK wants the exact same incarnation as currently in the US, not a Hulu "replacement" for Project Canvas as they recently suggested and fell at the first hurdle!





Maybe if they all listened to their potential customers/viewers they might get the message finally...

Keithe6e

November 29, 2010, 6:37 pm

@Wildkard: PS3s and 360s offer hardly anything in the way of media playback, the 360 especially so.





That depends :), Natively the 360 codecs support is very limited. But if your willing to set aside another PC that you could double up as a NAS/Media server. The 360 is a very good media playback device. The 360 can be a Media Extender for Media Center, and if you add MyMovies to the mix it's rather good!!.

Dave54321

January 16, 2011, 11:46 pm

I agree with the many other comments about the stupid shape, and the relatively high price.


One positive thing that has not been mentioned here (understandably, since this is primarily designed for movie playback) is the fact that it plays flac audio files *gapless* - a MAJOR buying incentive for music lovers (just look around the myriad music/media forums to see the hundreds of comments from people wanting gapless playability).





Also the fact that it can be used independently of a PC is absolutely essential to me - if I had to leave my PC on anyway it would be totally redundant, since my PC is in my living room (hooked up to my music system). So with this I can play my music files with my noisy PC turned OFF - I think I'll get one!

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